Andre Ethier’s frightening most similar list

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According to Baseball-Reference similarity scores, here are the 10 most comparable players to Andre Ethier through age 29:

1. Dmitri Young
2. Richie Zisk
3. Rondell White
4. Jacque Jones
5. Aubrey Huff
6. Bobby Higginson
7. Corey Hart
8. Ellis Valentine
9. Jim Edmonds
10. Tony Oliva

Talk about a scary list. I’m not saying it’s worth putting much weight into similarity scores like this, but… yikes. Of course, the Dodgers just gave Ethier a five-year, $85 million contract with what apparently is a pretty easy vesting option for 2018. The five guaranteed years will cover Ethier’s age 31-35 seasons.

For the record, of the eight retired players here, just one hit 100 homers after age 31. That was Edmonds, a late bloomer who hit 230. Huff may get there — he has 86 the last five years — but he’s certainly not someone Dodgers fans want to see Ethier compared to.

The four most similar players to Ethier averaged a total of 53 homers and 204 RBI in their careers from age 31 onwards. The injury-prone White was the most successful of the bunch, and he averaged 13 homers and 53 RBI per season in his final five years.

Of course, I think Ethier will do better than that. But none of these other guys figured to fall off the map like they did, either. I do expect that come 2017, the Dodgers are going to be dreading Ethier’s $17.5 million vesting option. It’ll be much like Bobby Abreu’s $9 million vesting option that kept him with the Angels over the winter; the team won’t want it, but there may be no way to avoid it.

White Sox to extend protective netting to the foul poles

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Recently two more fans suffered serious injuries as the result of hard-hit foul balls at major league games. One of those fans was hurt at a White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field earlier this month. In response, the White Sox have taken it upon themselves to do that which Major League Baseball will not require and extend protective netting. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

The White Sox and Illinois Sports Facilities Authority are planning to extend the protective netting at Guaranteed Rate Field down the lines to the foul poles, according to a source.

Exact details will be announced later, but the changes will be made as soon as possible this season.

If recent history holds, they will not be the last team to do it.

Major League Baseball has taken a laissez-faire approach to protective netting over the past several years, requiring nothing even if it has made recommendations to teams to do something. The last time it made a suggestion was in December 2015 when teams were “encouraged” to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts and within 70 feet of home plate. In the wake of that recommendation only a few teams immediately extended their netting, primarily because if you ask a business to do something but say it is not required to do anything, it is not likely to do anything.

It would not be until September 2017, after a baby girl was severely injured at Yankee Stadium, that the rest of baseball was inspired to extend protective netting in keeping with MLB’s recommendations. Indeed, it was a land rush, with all 30 teams extending their netting by Opening Day 2018. While a generous interpretation would have everyone seeing the light simultaneously, my slightly more experienced eye saw it as a “don’t be the only team not to have extended netting by the time the next lawsuit hits” approach.

In the wake of the two recent injuries Major League Baseball issued a statement about how it “will keep examining” the matter of additional protective netting while, again, mandating nothing. Now that the White Sox are extending netting to the foul poles, however,  it’s not hard to imagine a situation in which other teams follow suit. Sooner or later, enough will likely have done so to create critical mass and make any team which has not done so to make the effort out of self-preservation.

Or, more generously, good sense.